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People take part in a memorial ceremony for the Kenn Borek aircrew who died in last week’s crash in Antarctica, at the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station on Monday, Jan. 28, 2013.

Blaise Kuo Tiong/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A memorial service has been held in Antarctica to honour three Canadians who died in a plane crash there last week.

The men, all employees of Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air, were killed when their Twin Otter slammed into a steep snow- and ice-covered slope on the Queen Alexandra mountain range.

The U.S. National Science Foundation held the brief, impromptu ceremony Sunday at its Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. About 75 people, including three Ken Borek colleagues, gathered outside for a moment of silence as an American flag was replaced with a Canadian one for the day.

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The foundation's South Pole area manager, Bill Coughran, read aloud the famous flying poem High Flight.

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth/And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings."

The foundation's Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula has also lowered its Canadian flag to half-mast for three days.

"We have been privileged to experience first-hand their professionalism, skill and dedication to the arduous task of supporting science in an extremely remote and inhospitable environment," Kelly Falkner with the polar programs division said in a news release.

"Although everyone associated with the pursuit of science in Antarctica makes personal sacrifices to do so, very infrequently and sadly, some make the ultimate sacrifice."

The company has not identified its dead crew, but friends have named the pilot as Bob Heath of Inuvik, N.W.T. Media reports have identified the other two crew members as Mike Denton, a newlywed from Calgary, and Perry Andersen of Collingwood, Ont.

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